Coming in to the Lord’s Test match, there were two players under the scanner, not from the selectors or their captain but from disgruntled Indian fans who were asking for a change. They were Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara. Both of them had not scored much after the series against Australia and the fans were getting impatient.
And both failed in the first innings of the ongoing second Test against England with Pujara scoring nine and Rahane just one. Twitter was buzzing with unhappy fans asking them to be axed and replaced with Suryakumar Yadav and Mayank Agarwal for the third Test.
And when Rahane Walked in to bat at No. 5, India were struggling at 55-3 with captain Virat Kohli back in the hut alongside in-form openers Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul.
Since India has conceded a lead of 27 runs, India were actually just 26 runs ahead when Rahane walked in. Both Rahane and Pujara batted out of their skins and were very watchful as all the England bowlers were right on the money and were not giving an inch or loose delivery. Another wicket at that time and India would be in deep trouble. Rahane was more aggressive and looked very assured and Pujara was like a wall blocking every ball. They batted for 50 overs but put on a crucial 100-run partnership which took India’s lead beyond 120 when Pujara fell to a brute of a delivery for 45, but he had batted for 206 balls and then Rahane fell soon after making crucial 61 runs with India 150 runs ahead.
Whether these two knocks will save India, only time will tell, but at least it has given Indian bowlers enough of a cushion to bowl on a wearing fifth-day pitch. Some fans might argue that Rahane and Pujara could have carried on but trust me batting was not easy with balls keeping low or kicking, which happened to Pujara. Even Ravindra Jadeja was bamboozled by a bowl which kept low. The importance of both the knocks cannot be underestimated until the last day begins on Monday as India have a long tail from No. 8 to No. 11. India start the day 152 ahead with four wickets to go and with Rishabh Pant and Ishant Sharma in the middle. Even a score of 200 could be good enough for India’s bowlers on the last day if Pant can bat with the tail as England’s batting — Joe Root apart — seems be low on confidence.
Rahane’s last two important knocks resulted in India victories — a hundred in Melbourne in the second Test after Indian were blown away for 36 at Adelaide, and a knock of 50 was against England in Chennai on a spinning track. The only issue with Rahane is that he has not been consistent but as the great Sunil Gavaskar said, Rahane scores when it matters the most and has been India’s unsung hero and not the glamour boy.
India are alive in the Lord’s Test match because of the resilience of the silent man whose bat does the talking.